Friday, February 11, 2011
Denver State Rep. Randy Baumgardner has backed off his sponsorship of an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration because he worries it would cost taxpayers if it is challenged in court.
Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, said he would ask fellow lawmakers to effectively kill the bill. It has been laid over until Monday in committee.
House Bill 1107 would have allowed police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant if law enforcement had probable cause to think they were in the country illegally. It also would have required immigrants to always carry their documents and made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to work in Colorado.
One of the co-sponsors of Baumgardner’s bill, Republican Rep. David Balmer, said his colleague’s plans won’t deter him from pressing on with legislation targeting illegal immigration. A measure similar to Baumgardner’s still is alive in the Senate.
A federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration law and the case is pending in court. The blocked provisions would require immigrants to get or carry immigration registration papers and direct police officers who are enforcing other laws to question the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally.
Baumgardner said some aspects of his bill “could be construed as unconstitutional,” leading to legal challenges.
“So we felt like at this time it would be a prudent thing for the taxpayers of the state Colorado for this bill to just kind of go away,” he said.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition opposes the legislation.
“We need to focus on bills that are going to improve our economy, not create an environment of fear in immigrant communities,” coalition spokesman Alan Kaplan said.
Baumgardner said he doesn’t know whether he’ll bring the proposal back another year.
In addition to Baumgardner’s proposal in the House, Senate Republicans have pending legislation that also would give law enforcement the power to arrest someone if an officer has probable cause that the person is in the country illegally. Sen. Kent Lambert, the sponsor of Senate Bill 54, said he intends to proceed with his proposal and that he has no qualms about whether the measure is constitutional.
Democrats who control the Senate warn the immigration crackdown will encounter a difficult path.
Rep. Balmer said he intends to support Lambert’s bill if it reaches the House. Balmer said if it doesn’t, he plans to include portions of it in a House bill he’s sponsoring that would target people who smuggle immigrants into the country illegally.